Meet North America’s Most Inspiring Women Climbers

| February 19, 2014 | 2 Comments

Women Who Dare: North America’s Most Inspiring Women Climbers,
by Chris Noble

Review by Kristy McCaffrey

17572083-1This wonderful book profiles twenty of the best and most inspiring women climbers in North America. Two things immediately come to mind after reading about each woman’s history, accomplishments, goals, and philosophies: There isn’t one right path in pursuing a climbing career and/or lifestyle, and each of them consistently faces her own fears while on the rocks. It’s humbling to know that, despite their skills and immense accomplishments, they all confess to being afraid. And some, like Kate Rutherford, have cried on a punishing route when finding herself more exposed than anticipated.

These women are proof that the cliché of not letting their fears stop them is a viable and enriching way to live. Each stresses that climbing has given them self-confidence, problem-solving skills, patience, and determination. Some began when very young: Sasha DiGiulian at age seven (now a top-ranked outdoor sport climber), Emily Harrington at age ten (winner of six Sport Climbing National Championships), and Angie Payne at age eleven (three-time winner of the American Bouldering Series National Championship). Many guide and teach: Elaina Arenz utilizes the Warrior’s Way method of helping climbers overcome their fear of falling; Kitty Calhoun, America’s premier woman alpine climber, has worked for Outward Bound, The American Alpine Institute, and Chicks with Picks; Steph Davis has taught BASE jumping for years; Robyn Erbesfield-Raboutou has been instructing children (including her own daughter) since 1985; and Nancy Feagin guides in the Tetons.

Dawn Glanc, a mixed/ice climber, has suffered migraines her entire life, but climbs anyway. Brittany Griffith works for Patagonia, combining her love of climbing with a desire to travel. JC Hunter balances climbing with the demands of four children and a full-time nursing career. Alison Osius, executive editor at Rock and Ice magazine and the first female president of the American Alpine Club, has lost dozens of friends to accidents. Alex Puccio is on the World Cup bouldering circuit and is a professional climber. Lisa Rands is one of the best boulderers in the world, being the first American woman to win an international bouldering event. She admits to always being a nervous wreck during competitions.

Kate Rutherford and Madaleine Sorkin are rewriting the playbook for hard-alpine and big-wall climbing by American women. In 2006, they accomplished the first female ascent of Moonlight Buttress (V, 5.12+) in Utah’s Zion National Park. At the center of Moab’s climbing scene sits Lisa Hathaway, who considers herself an advanced recreational climber. Although no longer competing after the birth of her daughter, Lauren Lee McCormick is still considered one of the most naturally and gifted climbers. Beth Rodden has free-climbed more routes on El Cap than any other woman, but in 2000 she was taken hostage by a rebel group during an expedition to Kyrgyzstan which left her traumatized for years.

And, finally, no climbing book would be complete without mentioning Lynn Hill. She’s won more than thirty international competitions, but is best known for the first free ascent by any climber of the Nose on Yosemite’s El Capitan in 1993—the most famous big-wall climb in the world. She was also the first woman to on-sight 13b and climb 5.14.

This book is a must-have for any climber, but offers insights and gorgeous photos for the armchair enthusiast as well. Women Who Dare is a treasure-trove of some of the best female climbers in North America.


Kristy McCaffrey lives in Scottsdale, Arizona, and enjoys hiking, running, and 20-minute vinyasa yoga routines. She writes historical western romances and loves to travel. Visit her blog, “Pathways.”

Category: Blog, Books

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Written by the dedicated, hard-working Women's Adventure staff and their very generous team of volunteer writers. Want to lend a hand at making this splendid magazine even more splendid? Contact us at and let us know!

Comments (2)

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  1. gaildstorey says:

    Great review that makes me want to read WOMEN WHO DARE, Kristy! The fact that so many of these women experienced fear makes their triumphs even more admirable and inspiring.

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